Monday, March 01, 2010

Bill Smith's Report Card

It's been a great offseason for the Twins, to be sure. But what was so great about it?

On Sunday Nick Nelson and I were Doogie Wolfson's guests on AM1500, and I found myself in the minority on the best offseason move. Here's how they grade out:

Re-signing Carl Pavano
(Grade: B)
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Offering arbitration to Pavano was almost a no-brainer, because he was either going to result in a good draft pick or a one-year deal. The latter happened and that's fortunate for the Twins, because there weren't a lot of starting pitchers on the market that would have been a good fit. (And the one who was a decent fit was represented by Scott Boras.)

Signing Orlando Hudson (Grade: B+)
This is the move that is being universally praised, and I'm part of that universe. But just because we had to wait for it doesn't mean it was the most valuable move. Hudson is a great fit who fills gaps at both second base and the second lineup spot. But he was part of a slew of middle infielders who would be good fits, including Felipe Lopez who signed earlier this week at 1/4 of Hudson's salary. I'm adding the "+" grade because there are plenty of indications that the Twins stretched beyond their pre-planned budget to make this happen. That's gutsy, and a good sign for the future.

Signing Jim Thome (Grade: B+)
You have to love a bench signing the simultaneously:
1. boosts offense,
2. provides some veteran leadership and
3. reminds Delmon Young that playing the game for money is a privilege, not a right.
To be fair, this kind of guy also isn't exactly rare. Jermaine Dye is still out there. So is Garret Anderson. You can argue that either would be a better fit than the left-handed hitting Thome. But I'm adding a "+" because adding a bench bat like Thome was a stretch goal, and they achieved it.

Trading for JJ Hardy (Grade A+)
If Hardy goes belly up - and he's certainly gone belly up a couple of times in his career - then I'm dead wrong. But the Hardy move was almost the perfect way to start the offseason. The free agent market was stacked with second basemen and third basemen, but there was almost nothing at shortstop. Acquiring Hardy didn't just boost the lineup. More importantly, it gave the Twins the ability to sit back and let free agent prices come down. They did, and that's what made the Hudson and Thome signings possible.

Perhaps it was because the Hardy trade happened so early, or because it cost Twins fans the lovable Gremlin Carlos Gomez. But it seems like it was almost overlooked. It easily the most difficult of the offseason moves and I'll argue that it provided a solid basis for everything else the Twins did.


If you're up early tomorrow morning, I hope you'll turn the dial over to the Powertrip Morning Show on KFAN. I'll be talking Twins with the Hawkey, Sludge and the Superstar at 7:20 and pimping the Twins Annual. If you can't listen locally on the radio, you can listen through their website.


Jack Ungerleider said...

I said this once before and I'll say it again, the Thome signing is an example of a team getting the guy who has beat them his entire career because you know what he can do. Neither Dye nor Anderson has that history against the organization. Early on I compared this to the Cubs pursuit of Dave Kingman. As a member of the hated Mets Kingman had spoiled many a game for the Cubs and their fans. Of course he spent 3 years in Chicago and from the Baseball Reference page it looks like he had one good year sandwiched between two mediocre to awful years. (Think Pavano with the NYY.) Of course Chicago had Kingman in his "prime" (29-31) we couldn't get Thome then.

Brent said...

I love that the Twins have really pushed to present a more complete and dangerous lineup this season, but I haven't heard much about pitching this off-season. And while I understand that trades and signings for more bats have more interest for the media than our bullpen and starters healing from injuries, I'd really like to hear how our pitchers are likely to fare this season.

Nick N. said...

I don't see how you can give an A+ to a trade that brought in a guy who hit .229/.302/.357 last year and was demoted to the minors in August without any obvious injury to explain the problems away -- particularly when the Twins had to give up a fairly valuable young player to get him. People are way to quick to dismiss the very real possibility that Hardy does not bounce back much this year.

Hudson cost the team nothing but expendable cash, has posted a .350 OBP for four years running, and fills bigger areas of need. Your analysis does little to refute my claim that the Hudson acquisition was better.

rghrbek said...

Ah, spring training makes people optimistic to say the least.

Pavano is a c+ at best. 7 million for a guy who has been healthy 1 out of the last 6 years? He was needed but that is pretty steep.

O-Hud: A-. I would've liked Lopez better for much cheaper, but this is a great signing. My only complaint is that it's one year. The twins created this situation by signing punto, then relying on Casilla to fill in there at 2nd. Both failures. Plus the minors has nothing promising, so next year we will have to go through this all over again

Thome: C+. Fine he's a vet who has power. His numbers as a pinch hitter last year were not good but he is better than our other alternatives

Hardy: B. He could be very good, but we don't really know. Giving up GoGo was a small price to pay. Hopefully his defense is good.

Sooze said...

I give J.J. Hotpants Hardy an A+ for those dreamy baby blues of his.